Sapience: A Short Story of One Mind’s Journey to Enlightenment
A temporary deviation from nonfiction.
A long time ago, in the dark woods of a distant land, a man staggered alone. He found no comfort…only terror and dread! The howling, icy winds relentlessly blew through the woods, thrashing all its bare and lifeless trees. The winds were like razors against him They shrieked in his ears and pierced his flesh. The tree branches were like withered skeletons that strained helplessly for the night sky! But, alas, it was the man himself who fared worst of all! His robust, five-foot, two-inch frame had faded away. In its place remained nothing more than a pathetic shell of what once was. He was a modern man, at least in the strictest sense of the word. His cranial capacity had swollen  and facial features had attained more gracility than any of his predecessors (less projection, more verticality).  In every other sense, though, he was not a modern man. He had no name, no family unit, and he existed forty-thousand years before the global world we know today. He existed before civilization itself. His purview of being- like all life before, during, and after him- relied on a simple premise: kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. And so, for whatever else he was, it would appear he had lost it all. The zero-sum game thrust upon him by mere virtue of his birth had cast him on the struggling end of things. His tribe had abandoned and forgotten him.
Below the man’s massive eyebrows that extended over his face like outcroppings over bottomless canyons, fierce and fiery eyes that used to once swim with the light of a thousand suns had dwindled into blank vessels of collagen fiber . His enormous nose with flared nostrils had frozen solid. His arms that were once as powerful as a mighty oak tree had emaciated into tiny twigs, and his legs looked like they could snap in a gentle breeze. Although he had draped a bulky coat of bear fur over his torso and wrapped elk skins over his feet, the frosty winds still penetrated his skin and throttled him. Only his hair (shades of burnt umber grown wispy and thin) projected the slightest vestige of an animal still resiliently clinging to life. The pristinely white, knee-high blanket of snow he trudged through added further insult to injury. His stomach gnawed away at his spine and his muscles gave out. Exhausted, the man collapsed to his knees. He waited for the howling wolves to circle in upon him, and he resigned himself to his fate!! His eyes drifted upwards. When his vision locked in on the great ocean of countless twinkling dots above, something deep stirred within him. The entire scope of his existence changed, and the most ineffable sense of terror and wonder ensnared him. It was as though his consciousness had climbed out from its crumbling infrastructure. But what was this “something” that had stirred within him? What was this “something” beyond the world he knew? What was this “something” at all?
Inside his mind, he envisioned everything…as though it were unfolding only and entirely inside of him…every atom of every molecule of every cell of his terrestrial frame. The sudden burst of the cosmos itself. All light and energy. All time and space. All matter and form. Let loose in the most immense profusion of everything. A fiery core radiating forth penetrating beams of reddish and violent hues. A colossal soup of the absolute infinitesimal. The tiniest atomic particles held together by the unmerciful force of gravity. Everything crashing together and coalescing…cooling and expanding! The universe itself extended to levels of acreage so vast they lay beyond the tireless abysses one could barely fathom in their deepest dreams! Endless plains of cosmic gas, space dust, and super clusters of stars and galaxies by the billions appeared…all spinning, swirling, spiraling, and colliding. They clung together like multitudes of milky-white pathways in a vast, celestial cobweb. Great cumulative clouds of amaranth and violet parted ways for burning white discs of light. Violent streams of coral red and crimson raced together in tighter, shakier orbits until the stars embracing them collapsed; all matter torn and dragged inwards. A stellar mass black hole conveyed its supreme terror. The burning cores of a thousand quasars threw out vermilion flares like tentacles from a frightened squid. The Horseshoe Galaxy emerged. Its lavender, star-shimmering veil floated over projections of profound darkness. The Pillars of Creation vaulted upwards. Their clumping columns soared majestically into a sea of ultraviolet light. 
Then appeared the Milky Way. The Solar System. The Sun. All the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. The origins of the Earth. The tremendous bombardments of solar debris catapulting against a hellish terrain as though trying to ravage it. Fiery globs of bloody, orange, and red lava creeped in waves and splattered high against a toxic and nebulous atmosphere. Melting oceans of magma. Iron and nickel sunk into a molten core.  The magnetic shield deflected ravenous solar winds.  Mounting layers of crust appeared. Islands and continents. Water. Life.
All forms of life…all plants, animals, and microorganisms. Every carbon vessel with a capacity for self-replication, striving tirelessly for dominion and perpetuity in an ever-escalating volley between better armor and better weaponry. With it, the great spiraling stairwell lengthened. Each periodic deviation of its four bases helped bring forth the brilliant and horrifying menagerie we know today.
His vision leapt to the deepest, darkest recesses of the ocean. Its great, billowing sea vents filled with prokaryotic life  and its waters swelled with oxygen.  The muddy and sandy shores of all the earth’s continents appeared. Every bulge and crevice across the lands. Every lake, river, forest, desert, canyon, and jungle. Worms, parasites, and viruses. Bacteria. Fungi. Trilobites, cephalopods, arthropods, and crustaceans. Sea sponges, sea stars, and sea anemones. Jelly fish. Star fish. Mollusks and stoneworts. Creatures of every form and figure and organic features of every sort. Notochords, nerve cords, spinal columns, and jaws. Dorsal shields and convoluted ridges. Dentine-rich bones and enamel-covered scales.  Curved craniums, skull-topping spiracles, and serrated bodies. Wings, feathers, and bones. All swimming, creeping, crawling, slithering, and soaring earthlings. Reptiles. Amphibians. Dinosaurs. Birds. Insects. Mammals. Mankind.
His eyes remained transfixed on the river of stars aloft. He felt as though he were living in every age that ever had or ever would exist. All the world’s thoughts and dreams, its memories and regrets, and its imaginations and aspirations. Its fears. Its sorrows. Its towering moments of unbridled joy and unbearable agony. Farms and villages. Towns and cities. Great nations and empires. All the pyramids, bridges, roads, and skyscrapers. The dialogues of Plato and the essays of Aristotle. The epic tales by Homer, Virgil, Miguel Cervantes, and Alexander Dumas. The treatises of Locke, Hume, and Voltaire. The symphonies of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Bach. The scientific discoveries of Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin. The poems of Dante and Milton. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Spanish Armada. The Great Wall. The Taj Mahal. The Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, and the Coliseum.
The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The sonnets, tragedies, and comedies of William Shakespeare. All of humanity’s darkest moments. Serial killers and rapists. Tyrannical kings and queens. Warfare. Greed. Racism. Sadism. Slavery. Environmental destruction. The extermination of millions. The dropping of the atom bomb. The falling twin towers. All of humanity’s achievements. The invention of the wheel. Electricity. The automobile. The telephone. The railroad. The smart phone. The airplane. The polio vaccine. The Hubble Space Telescope. The moon-landing. And…the disappearance into space itself (the very outer regions of which this ancient man gazed upon).
What would it be like to envision it all? To see the highs and lows of the ultimate story entirely through one’s own mind. To understand what it truly means to be, and what it truly means to know everything that can possibly be known. To experience the cosmos directly- would it be horrifying, beautiful, tragic, or absurd? What if existence could be understood in such a profound and particular way that no form of malevolence or entropy could ever destroy us and the greatest virtues we espouse- courage, strength, compassion, and love- could attain a level of reality as indestructible as the cosmos itself…a willful body of experience grounded in both a narrative and material substrate?
What kind of thoughts raced through the simple minds of primitive people? What did they think and feel? What did they witness? What kind of phenomenological wisdom could they have carried with them into oblivion, if such a fate were possible?
The man’s wondrous vision broke. He lowered his gaze upon the dark outline of a massive outcropping in a clearing several leagues ahead of him. Upon it, a single, distinctive orange glow caught his eye. The tiniest spark of light in a sea of seemingly infinite darkness. Fleeting shadows of other people attended to the orange glow. They moved together- conversing, working, and embracing as though they were all part of one organism…as though without that unity they would wither and die! And with that, the man’s brain went vacant, his vision went black, and he collapsed into the snow.
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